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Who's Yer Daddy?
Wendy McElroy writes about a bit of progress for men in the paternity fraud department:

On Aug. 31, a small but precedent-setting case was decided in the Superior Court of New Jersey. The plaintiff discovered he was not the biological father of his eldest 'son', now in his 30s. The court affirmed the duped dad's legal right to sue the natural father for the cost of raising the 'child' and removed some limitations imposed by a lower court.

The precedent: for the first time, New Jersey has extended a clear statutory deadline for filing on paternity cases. For the first time, a biological parent may be forced to pay child support for an offspring emancipated over 15 years ago.

The significance: family courts are beginning to reflect a growing impatience with paternity fraud; perhaps this is in reaction to a shift in societal attitudes.

Predictably, the pathbreaking New Jersey decision raises more questions. For example, if a deliberate fraud was perpetrated for 30 years by both the biological mother and father, why is only the father held liable?

Well, in this case, most creepily:

...The court found, "BEC (the mother) owed plaintiff nothing for the support of DC" because she had also paid her fair share. Moreover, "the act of adultery...does not violate any law" and was mitigated by the joy and benefit "plaintiff enjoyed from the love and affection" of the "child he thought was his."

I am uncomfortable with this reasoning.

Adultery is not and should not be against the law; consenting adults have an absolute right to have sex together without government interference. The sexual act may be immoral or otherwise unsavory but it should not be illegal.

But making an innocent third party legally and financially responsible for the consequences of that sex act is an entirely different matter. And the mother must have perjured herself on several legal documents during the divorce and child settlement arrangements when she attested to RAC's fatherhood.

At least two questions bear on whether the mother should be liable. The first: should the law intrude into family matters? The second: if the law becomes involved, should fraud be tolerated?

My ideal society includes explicit contracts into which people voluntarily enter before becoming parents; DNA testing might be a standard provision. The law (or other third party) would become involved only as an arbiter of disputes or as a rescuer in cases of physical abuse.

That society doesn't exist. People resist parental contracts and the law inevitably becomes involved in competing claims over children.

And, when a legal proceeding occurs, intentional fraud should be punished.

I can't find the exact study, but a cognitive neuroscientist I know told me he'd blood and DNA-tested a reasonable sample of children for paternity and found that 25%! were not fathered by the man who thought he was their biological parent. One out of four! That's a whole lot of back payments -- half of which should come from the sneaky, conniving mothers.

Posted by aalkon at September 12, 2005 8:03 AM

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Hmm. The State, in officially recognizing a marriage, takes the natural place of the tribe in collecting the obligations of service from its members. Thus, the members have the duty to represent their dealings, publicly and privately, honestly when such affect the State, which is expected to deal with the individual according to fair and published rules.

There is an obvious double standard cited here, in that if adultery should not be against the law, then the law should also not meddle in whether a son is actually a father's. Clearly, the concept of inheritance, in which property recognized by the State is transferred, depends on lineage, especially in those cases where probate is decided without a will or other testament from the deceased. Adultery IS contrary to good order in such cases; since there is always an issue as to the rights of survivors in estate law, then adultery should always be rejected.

Posted by: Radwaste at September 12, 2005 2:25 AM

> sneaky, conniving mothers.

Why, Those... Little... SLUTS!!!

Women connive and men are dogs, but society has paid a terrible price for lifting all the social and religious opprobrium for sexual misconduct and distortions of the family such as single parenthood.

> And, when a legal proceeding occurs,
> intentional fraud should be punished.

Does anybody think that law is going to do a better job punishing misbehavior of this sort than social shaming used to do back in the day?

Posted by: Crid at September 12, 2005 10:29 AM

My old buddy Crid is back! I agree with every word you said here.

Never having had children myself, I now find myself raising an 18 month old boy (step grandson) whose mother decided the meth/rave lifestyle was more important than being a mother. Kids being raised in single family homes or by their grandparents are no longer the exception in the Pacific Northwest- I would estimate close to half, at least 1/3. In my angrier moments I entertain the thoughts of court ordered sterilizations.

Posted by: eric at September 12, 2005 10:41 AM

> I agree with every word you said here.

It'll never happen again!

> I now find myself raising an 18 month old
> boy (step grandson...

You have my greatest admiration and gratitude. Changing the direction of your middle years like this is a burden, but it means the kid is probably not going to be muggin me up with a shiv at an ATM in 2016.

> I entertain the thoughts of court ordered
> sterilizations.

It's the silver lining of our time: There's nobody telling people how and when they can reproduce. The surrounding dark cloud is that people abuse the power without penalty.

Posted by: Crid at September 12, 2005 11:35 AM

He is actually a great little kid, but it was pretty tough the first two months. Makes you really appreciate a good sleep schedule. We put a big picture of uncle Saddam just over his bed. Ha ha, just kidding of course.

I'm tellin ya Crid, it's gettin harder to be a middle of the road liberal these days....Susan Sarandon had better do a few good scenes soon.

Posted by: eric at September 12, 2005 12:55 PM

Middle years?? I just hit 40!

Posted by: eric at September 12, 2005 1:16 PM

Dude, when he's a teenager ("Game on!"), you'll be in your 50's.

Posted by: Crid at September 12, 2005 1:49 PM

Already I feel bad for that. I'm just saying, parenthood is different than childlessness.

Posted by: Crid at September 12, 2005 1:51 PM

You are right. Hey- cross promotion idea- "Depends" coupons inside each "Pampers" package! Prep H coupons on the back of Desetin boxes!

Posted by: eric at September 12, 2005 3:12 PM

I enjoyed reading this comment exchange. (seriously, how endearing)

Posted by: Claire at September 13, 2005 7:08 PM

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